The three songs in this issue are all taken from the Psalter Hymnal (1987) and are accompanied by commentary from the new Psalter Hymnal Handbook (1998). We're celebrating the completion of that huge project in this issue (see also the editorial on p. 2, the interview with primary author Bert Polman on p. 7, and order information on the inside back cover). We're also heaving huge sighs of relief after ten years of research!
Articles in this issue:
By some accounts, the worship situation in churches today has reached an all-time low— "the worst of times." Others disagree. They think that the church has broken out of encrusted habits and is yielding to the working of the Spirit. We are finally worshiping "as God wants us to"—"the best of times."
Who's right? Although there's no easy answer to that question, dipping into a few recent articles and books and mixing in a bit of commentary and history may help us evaluate our liturgical situation.
Have-you ever tried to picture what the great wedding banquet of the Lamb will be like? Those three images—of wedding, banquet, and Lamb—are poetic metaphors of what lies "beyond the Jordan," to use another metaphor. Every time we meet for worship, we anticipate another time when we will begin a worship service that will be so perfectly planned and carried out that we won't want it to end. And it won't. Scripture is full of poetic language that gives us hints and glimpses of what eternal life is all about.
VARIATIONS ON THE UNITY CANDLE
The unity candle is a familiar sight at weddings. In the center of an arrangement is a candle that is not lit, flanked by two that are. At the appropriate time in the ceremony, the bride and groom move to this arrangement, pick up the two lit candles, together light the center candle, and then extinguish their candles. Sometimes the action is accompanied by music, sometimes by words from the minister, who says something along these lines:
Joy. If the circumstances are right—if everything, or at least almost everything, is going our way— then we can feel joy. That's what most people in our culture believe. But since we live in a world that is full of difficult and puzzling circumstances and events, most of us seldom experience that kind of joy.
There was, finally, the business of the Calvary Church sign. Pastor Jack had placed the item at the end of the consistory agenda, not only because it wasn't top priority, but also because replacing the sign would prompt a ton of jokes, all of them aimed at him.
Soon after the Psalter Hymnal was released in 1988, people started calling, wondering when the Psalter Hymnal Handbook would be ready. I got calls and letters, even from different countries. After all, this would be a first for the Reformed tradition: there was no English-language companion volume that dealt with both psalms and hymns from the perspective of the Reformed heritage of congregational song.
Q. The Presbyterian Hymns, Psalms & Spiritual Songs contains "My Country Tis of Thee" and other patriotic songs, but the Christian Reformed Psalter Hymnal does not. Is that failure caused by the fact that the Christian Reformed Church was at one time a Dutch immigrant church?
Volume 1. Instructional video with Paul Baloche, 1995. Available from Praise Stock Footage, P.O. Box 5331, Woodbridge VA 22194-5331; 703-590-0214; fax 703-670-6871. 90 minutes. $39.95 (U.S.) plus $4.00 shipping.
Each week I have twenty minutes to sing with the children in church school before they go to their classes. This year's theme was the Apostles' Creed. I divided the creed into nine "articles" and chose songs relating to each of them. The "articles" were taught at appropriate times during the Christian year. At the end of the year, they were incorporated into the following program, which was part of a worship service.